Putin’s victory is all but guaranteed. But if elected with slumping numbers then his vision—and personal security—will be at risk once he steps asideby Maria Antonova / March 16, 2018 / Leave a comment
Descend into the Moscow metro these days and you will hear a new sound cutting through the familiar din of commuters chattering and trains humming through tunnels. The announcement over the speaker reminds the subway’s millions of daily users that 18th March is an important date: the election of the Russian president. Stickers inside the train cars tell out-of-towners that the opportunity to vote in the capital is just a click away on a government services website: an unprecedented move to grant suffrage to those without previously required registration.
Russian authorities really want people to go to the polls on Sunday.
Six years ago, the last time Russia chose a president, the authorities were worried that people were a little too excited about the election. Crowds of people had protested in unprecedented rallies that demanded reform and rejected Vladimir Putin’s standing. A possibility of change was on the minds of many active Russians who networked online, debated alternate visions for Russia’s future, and eventually cast their ballots. The country was abuzz with new political activity.
Since then, many of those individuals have left the country, and both online and offline political expression has been severely restricted with new legislation. Prospects of going to jail for re-posting a critical social networking message have dampened activism. Economic stagnation has turned the focus of ordinary people on earning enough to survive.
The annexation of Crimea in 2014 provided an unprecedented boost for Putin, with his approval ratings rising to 86 percent—a level of popularity that was christened the “Crimea majority.” The election is being held on the four-year anniversary of the annexation to remind people of that main legacy of Putin’s last six years in office, but the magic of the Crimea majority is not likely to be recreated.
The country’s leading opposition politician, Alexei Navalny, has called for a boycott of the election, but even without his call, projected participation in the polls is lower than ever in modern Russian history. The latest parliamentary polls in September 2016 showed that political apathy is at an all-time high: less than 48 percent of Russians bothered to vote. In Moscow the figure was just 35.2 percent.
Putin’s victory is all but guaranteed despite his complete disengagement from the campaign. In his customary fashion…